About the Author

James C. Capretta

James C. Capretta

New Atlantis Contributing Editor James C. Capretta is an expert on health care and entitlement policy, with years of experience in both the executive and legislative branches of government. E-mail: jcapretta@aei.org.


James C. Capretta’s Latest New Atlantis Articles

 Health Care with a Conscience” (Fall 2008) 

 Health Care 2008: A Political Primer” (Spring 2008) 

 The Clipboard of the Future” (Winter 2008)


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Friday, July 15, 2011

A Hearing on the “Medicare Trigger” 

On Tuesday, July 12, a Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a hearing on the so-called “Medicare Trigger.” I was asked to testify on a panel that included Chuck Blahous, Public Trustee for Social Security and Medicare, Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, and Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. We followed Jonathan Blum of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who testified on behalf of the administration.

The Medicare trigger was enacted in 2003 as part of the Medicare prescription drug legislation. It requires the Medicare trustees to monitor the financing of the program and issue warnings whenever dedicated revenue sources for the program (mainly payroll taxes and premiums) fall below 55 percent of total Medicare spending — or, to put it another way, whenever non-dedicated revenue sources cover more than 45 percent of the program’s total annual costs. This trigger was intended to help Congress keep track of the burden that Medicare spending is placing on general taxpayer funds. If the trustees issue a warning two years in a row, then the president is supposed to submit legislation to correct the breach. In 2011, the trustees issued a warning but no legislation was submitted by the president, which is the main reason the hearing was held.

My testimony is available here, and all of the written testimony, along with video of the hearing, are available here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 3:59 pm
Tags: Medicare Trigger, House testimony
File As: Health Care